Posts made in April 2017

Psycho Cop Returns on Blu-Ray – Review

By

Frank Ford

This month marks the return of Psycho Cop 2 on Blu-Ray Special Edition from Vinegar Syndrome in a fully uncut, newly restored 2K scan from 35mm vault prints.

Before I get into the restored releasing from Vinegar Syndrome, l want to take a moment and explain a little about Psycho Cop (the first film) and Psycho Cop Returns (or Psycho Cop 2 as it was labiled on VHS).

Psycho Cop (the first film) was released to home video on November 28th 1989 from South Gate Entertainment. The film was directed by Wallace Potts from his script. The plot is simple: Officer Joe Vickers (Robert R. Shafer, who goes by the name Bobby Ray Shafer for both Psycho Cop movies) is a devil worshiping serial killer who targets his victims by the laws they break – or what he considers breaking the law. After six college students, on a getaway trip to a remote house in the woods provoke him, Vickers follows them and kills them one-by-one.

To say the first film is good would be giving it a lot of undeserved praise; it’s slow and boring, the production looks cheap, and the direction and cinematography are absent with flat, bland shots that lack any artistic skill behind the camera. The kills in the movie are mostly bloodless, unlike Psycho Cop Returns, and there isn’t a stich of nudity, also unlike Psycho Cop returns. The characters are your normal trope of college kids found in almost all 1980s horror flicks, and Psycho Cop follows the rules Halloween, or more-so, Friday the 13th, set up in films before it, but here they seem to be somehow dumber than any characters in slasher film history. The acting (with exception to Shafer) is horrendous and truly laughable at how bad some lines are delivered.

Psycho Cop came out a year after another slasher cop was covering the screen in crimson – Matt Cordell from Maniac Cop. Psycho Cop was a lower budgeted rip-off of Maniac Cop, without William Lustic’s masterful direction or Larry Cohan’s writing skills. And boy, it shows.

But that’s not to say Psycho Cop isn’t without its charm and appeal. It came out in a time when home video was in high demand, and production companies were producing low budget horror movies by the truckloads to get on to rental shelves. Looking back on the film now, Psycho Cop looks like a time capsule trapped in the late 1980s when these types of B horror movies littered every mom and pop video store shelf. With that, comes fond memories of a time long past, when Friday Nights were spent scouring the video store shelves looking for a new horror movie. How can that alone not bring an otherwise bad movie up several notches on anyone’s belt?

But there is another shining star hidden in Psycho Cop, that being Officer Joe Vickers and Shafer’s crazy, yet menacing performance as the devil worshiping serial killer cop. Shafer plays Vickers just over the top enough that he comes off truly scary, crazy, and funny all at the same time. Shafer is the saving grace of the first film, and unlike Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees (or even Matt Cordell), Vickers actually speaks and has several puns (‘Sarah, now stop this, you’re obstructing justice’; ‘You have the right to remain…dead’).

If you have not seen the first film its okay, you don’t need to to watch Psycho Cop Returns as they are not connected, except for Vickers. Finding a copy of Psycho Cop can be hard; it has never been upgraded to DVD or Blu-Ray, so the only way to get the film is on VHS and they do pop up on eBay every so often.

Four years later in 1993 we would see the return of the Psycho Cop. This time direction was turned over to Adam Rifkin (under the name Riff Coogan- which he also directed The Invisible Maniac under). Rifkin is known for such films as The Chase and Detroit Rock City.

Adam Rifkin used the name Rif Coogan so he could also direct grindhouse/schlock films. Rifkin has a great love for all types of films, including horror and grindhouse style movies. So he created the name Rif Coogan to direct these types of movies, and it would allow him to keep the Adam Rifkin filmography separated from the Rif Coogan films, much like writers such as Stephen King did when he was writing as Richard Bachman or Nora Roberts does as J.D. Robb.

From the start of Psycho Cop Returns, from the opening shot, you can tell that it is a much better film than the first, with people behind the camera (and in front) that know what they are doing. When the film needs to be suspenseful or scary, it is. When it needs to be funny, it is. Because of Adam Rifkin’s skill behind the camera he delivered a movie that is suspenseful, scary, sleazy, and really funny at times and that’s not an easy task to take on for any director but Rifkin pulled it off seamlessly.

Shafer returns to play Vickers and is in top form in this movie. Everything you liked about him in the first film is taken up and played to the max. He’s a real treat to watch.

This time around, Vickers targets a group of yuppies who are throwing their buddy a bachelor party at the office where they work – for some unknown reason; I guess they couldn’t find a house to have this party in?

Unlike the first film, which at times takes itself too serious and tries to be scary, Psycho Cop Returns plants its tongue firmly in cheek and goes for this whacky grindhouse style of filmmaking that really doesn’t exist anymore. The comedy is ramped up, the kills are bloodier and gorier, Vickers’ sadistic puns are everywhere, and naked girls (including Julie Strain) are abound and showing off the goods – everything a home video release in the 1990s needed to be successful.

The movie was shot in about a week. But with Rifkin’s skilled direction you wouldn’t know that. Most shots look good and the angles were well chosen and appear that they were thought out long beforehand. But Rifkin has said that he shot most of the film on the fly and it taught him how to be looser with the way he films a scene for future movies.

The film was released on home video on July 27th 1994 in the US.

But when the videos went out, the film had been edited down unbeknownst to anyone associated with the film, including Rifkin. Most of the gore and violence and the sex and the nudity in the film had all been edited out. And were not talking about small snip-its of the film to secure an R rating (no one knows why these cuts were made or who did them for that matter) but cuts to the film that were so bad it leaves huge holes in the plot or scenes that just awkwardly cut to another scene, never showing any of the violence, blood, gore, sex and nudity in the film.

Viewers of the film instantly knew that major cuts had been made. Because of this, Psycho Cop 2 took on this mysterious vibe, leaving viewers wondering for years what had been cut from the film and when they could finally see it restored in a fully uncut edition.

Thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, that came to fruition this year with their release of Psycho Cop Returns in its fully uncut edition. All the violence, gore, sex and nudity was put back into the film and finally we get a movie that makes sense, unlike its home video predecessor.

The newly scanned 2K restoration from 35mm vault elements looks spectacular! Vinegar Syndrome cleaned up the print just enough that the picture and colors pop off the screen, but don’t diminish the grain of the 35mm film too much – one still gets the feeling that they are watching a grindhouse/home video movie on Blu-Ray format.

There is a forty-three minuet documentary called “Habeas Corpus” on the making of Psycho Cop Returns that is a must watch for fans of the film and to gather a little more insight into its creation, featuring new interviews with: Adam Rifkin, Robert R. Shafer, Dan Povenmire (screenwriter), Pert Schink (editor), Miles Douglas (co-star), Rod Sweitzer (co-star) Nick Vallelonga (co-star), Barbara Niven (co-star) and Melanie Good (co-star). The only downside to the documentary is that Julie Strain was missing from the interviews, and it would have been nice to hear what she had to say about the film.

“The Victims of Vickers” is the second documentary on the film with interviews by SFX Artist Mike Tristano. The segment is much shorter, but still very well done and goes in to great detail about the effects in the film and how some of them came to be, as well as the strange cuts that were made to the home video release.

The commentary track with Adam Rifkin and Vinegar Syndrome’s very own, Elijah Drenner, is well done and fun to listen to. Rifkin explains how he got started on the project, how the casting was done, the effects, the strange cuts to the home video version of the film, and a life-altering story that you’re only going to hear on the commentary track– so listen to it!

The Blu-Ray/DVD combo is Region Free (AWESOME!).

There is reversible cover artwork – but we did not get that with our copy. Not a big deal though.

Vinegar Syndrome really went above and beyond to produce this for us collectors. And I have to thank them for doing so. Finally we got to see Psycho Cop Returns as it was intended, not the watered-down version that was released on home video so long ago.

Companies like Vinegar Syndrome are keeping physical media alive for us collectors. We need more films like Psycho Cop Returns to be saved from obscurity, and places like Vinegar Syndrome to restore them for future generations to enjoy – so buy physical media and support them and other restoration companies like Vinegar Syndrome. It’s you, the consumer, who can and will keep physical media alive. Do your part!

Well done Vinegar Syndrome. Well done.

10 out of 10 stars.

you can order a copy here: http://www.mcssl.com/store/18046487/psycho-cop-returns-blu-raydvd-combo

This Halloween, Sam from “Trick ‘ Treat” is Coming…

By

Steven Smith

There are a few thing more joyous than Halloween Night.

The smell of the foliage lingering faintly in the cool October air; air which is scraping at your skin trying to get to the bone beneath the flesh. Hundreds of carved pumpkins lining the sidewalks and stoops of homes; their chilling faces and glowing eyes watching your ever move as if they are the watchful eyes of the departed and damned. A harvest moon glowing above guiding the dead, on their night, to their destinations to torment the living. The voices of children hauntingly echoing through the neighborhood as they near your front door, hoping to score some candy and yelling “Trick or Treat” as they open their candy sacks to you – unless, that is, you’re one of the unlucky few who have been visited by Sam.

Well then my friends, if Sam is on your doorstep you’re in for an interesting night…

But if Sam has never paid a visit to your home (feel thankful he hasn’t) and you’d still like to own the loveable little guy (who has a healthy respect for the rules of Halloween) now is your chance.

Mezco Toyz has just created a 15” Sam from the cult film Trick ‘r Treat.

Mezco’s description of Sam:

Part pumpkin, part supernatural being, it’s Sam, the enforcer of the rules of Halloween. Straight from the cult status film Trick ‘r Treat, Sam shows no mercy to those who disrespect his holiday. He may look child-like and dressed for trick-or-treating, but Sam is the personification of Halloween itself. Standing an impressive 15 inches tall, Sam comes complete with his infamous and mysterious sack as well as his deadly oversized translucent lollipop. Remove his film accurate hood mask to behold his twisted demonic visage. His tattered orange footie pajamas complete the outfit. Sam features over 9 points of articulation, and comes packaged in a specially die-cut window box perfect for display. Just remember, he can watch you from inside the box, so don’t blow out your pumpkin until midnight. Look for Sam to creep into stores in September – November 2017.

The Crimson Screen Collectibles is now accepting preorders for Sam (from Trick ‘r Treat) and you can find the link below to place your order. As it states above the figures will be in stock sometime between September – November of 2017.

http://www.mcssl.com/store/18046487/sam—from-trick-r-treat

But beware, if you don’t obey the rules of Halloween, Sam may be paying you a visit this year with his deadly lollypop .  Happy Halloween!

Annabelle 2: Creation (Trailer Review)

By

Westley Smith

 

The trailer for Annabelle 2: Creation, the next chapter in what is now being called “The Conjuring Universe” premiered this weekend. And to say that it was a little underwhelming would be an understatement.

Watching the trailer, I’m undecided whether this movie is going to be good or not, especially after the first Annabelle film – which was just okay; there were parts of that movie that were well done, and scary, but as a whole the film came off slow and boring.

While watching the trailer, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on? Is this new movie ignoring the events laid out in the first Annabelle movie – a kind of reimagining? It sure looks that way. In the first film, the Annabelle doll is possessed by a demon. Now it seems the doll it is once again being possessed by another demon, claiming to be the daughter of two parents who run a school for children, around the time the doll was created.

Head scratching at the moment trying to figure out the continuity of this film.

Annabelle 2 is directed by David F. Sandberg the director of Lights Out – a movie that started as a short and became an internet sensation and then turned into a feature length movie, produced by James Wan. Lights Out, like Annabelle, had its moments of creepiness but overall was forgettable as there wasn’t enough substance there to make it stand out, other than its titular character.

I fear the same thing is happening with the Annabelle films.

But the bigger thing here about the Annabelle films is this: what made Annabelle in The Conjuring so scary was that we didn’t know anything about the dolls past. It is not knowing the history of the doll that makes it creepy. Stripping the mystery away robs us, the viewers, of something that remains creepy in our minds.

Do we really need or want another Annabelle movie? Is expanding the backstory of the doll the right way to go, or is this just another way to capitalize on a franchise and milk it to death?

What are your thoughts on the new film? Let us know below in the comments.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUDXAOXBxa4&w=560&h=315]

Stephen King’s fogotten gem: The Night Flier (Review)

By

Frank Ford

With the “IT” trailer dropping this week (looking scary as hell, by the way) it got us here at The Crimson Screen thinking about another Stephen King adaptation that most people have forgotten since its releasing.

Over the years there have been a lot of King’s novels and short stories adapted into movies. Some are great; Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, Carrie, The Shining. Some are good; Pet Semetary, The Dead Zone, and Misery. Some are okay; Needful Things, Graveyard Shift, and Firestarter. And some are just downright dreadful– we’re looking at you The Lagoliers and The Mangler.

But the film I’m discussing today isn’t as well-known as most on the list above, and sadly it has somewhat fallen into obscurity since its releasing twenty years ago.

That film?

1997s “The Night Flier”.

Originally airing on HBO in 1997, before being released into theaters a few months later, The Night Flier revolves around Richard Dees; (the late Miguel Ferrer) a down on his luck, tightly-wound reporter who hasn’t had a successful front-page article in months for the sleazy tabloid magazine “Inside View”.

But Dees’ luck is about to change when his boss, Merton Morrison (Dan Monahan; Pee-Wee from the Porky’s films) offers him a new assignment. It seems someone has been flying around to small airports in a Black Sesna Sky Master killing victims and draining them of their blood. This person calls himself Dwight Renfield – the name is an anagram, Dwight is a reference to Dwight Frye the actor who played Renfield in the 1931 version of Dracula.

Could Renfield really be a…vampire?

Morrison seems to think this assignment is what Dees needs to get him back on the front page, and because Dees has his pilot’s license and his own plane, he can track Renfield’s path to get the bloody details about the murders.

Miguel Ferrer is perfectly cast as the unlikable Dees. The role fits him to a T and he makes you both truly despise and like him at the same time; not an easy feet for any actor but he pulls it off effortlessly. He really carries the movie as Dees; the hard-as-nails reporter who has seen too much depravity in his life and copes with the stress by drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes – which Miguel Ferrer makes look really cool, if I can be politically incorrect here.

Dees doesn’t agree and passes on the story; allowing Merton to give it to the newest member of the “Inside View”, Katherine Blair (Julie Entwisle; wife of the film’s director, Mark Pavia) who has taken over for a former reporter, Dottie Walsh, who died under mysterious circumstances…

Blair (who Dees refers to as Jimmy, as in Jimmy Olsen) wants to get to know Dees better so she follows him to a bar. While there, Blair asks for Dees’ take on “Inside View”. It is here we see just how despicable Dees is, and tells her that she reminds him of Dottie Walsh, the reporter she replaced. Dottie killed herself because the weight of the stories she was covering was too much for her to handle. Dees found Dottie, took a picture of her body, and wrote the story of her suicide – which in Dees’ words with a chuckle, “Made for a good headline, though”.

Again, Ferrer’s performance in this scene is great and he plays it with such a sinister, spiteful vibe, that you can’t help but admire the guy in this role. He owns it. Like this role was written just for him. I can’t think of anyone that could have played Dees better than Ferrer did.

Dees does give Blair one piece of advice in this scene that will set up the final act of the movie beautifully when he says “Don’t publish what you believe. Don’t believe what you publish.”

The next day, Dees is once again called into Morrison’s office where he’s told that Renfield has murdered two victims in Maryland, bringing his total to four murders – one in Maine and another one in New York (which the movie opens with, brutally). Morrison, at this point, rubs it in Dees’ face that Blair found the nights prior victims through clever ingenuity.

Dees, not one to be shown-up, takes the story but only after Morrison, sleazily, persuades him. Morrison kicks Blair off the case which she protests, considering the story hers.

But Morris has made up his mind and gives the story to Dees.

Dan Monahan plays Morrison like a conniving weasel; he makes you want to reach into the screen and strangle the guy for how he’s playing both sides to get what he wants. Though Morison’s not as outright nasty as Dees, and keeps his true self well hidden, he’s still an unlikeable character.

Dees then flies to Maine where the first murder occurred and interviews Ezra Hannon.

 

There is a really good exchange between Dees and Hannon here. Hannon, who speaks with a New England accent, asks Dees which paper he writes for and Dees tells him “Inside View”. Hannon laughs and tells Dees that his wife reads that paper, but after she’s done with it he uses it “to line the cat litter box. Soaks up that cat piss real nice.” This small touch of social commentary really says a lot about tabloid publications and how people view them.

Hannon then proceeds to tell him about the night Renfield landed and that he was wearing a cloak that “was a red as a fireengine on the inside and as black as a woodchucks asshole on the outside” – that is such a Stephen King written line, and if you have ever read any of his books or short stories you already know his work is littered with zingers just like that that make you chuckle with delight.

He describes how the first murder victim, Clair Bowie, was acting strange and found him washing Renfields plane, as if in a trance. Later that night, Clair was found dead.

KNB did the effects on the film and there are plenty of moments where you get to see their work shine – none more than when Clair’s body is shown; it’s bloody great!

Hannon then says there was something else that was peculiar to him; he found dirt under Renfield’s plane and that it looked like something dead had come from it.

Later that night, Dees goes to Clair’s grave, and in a dick move to help his story and “Inside View” sell more papers, he kicks the gravestone askew to give his photo a creepier vibe. But Dees still isn’t satisfied and decides to cut himself and smear blood on the gravestone – which seems to link him and Renfield by blood.

This is another little tidbit that I like about this movie and how the media (whether it be mainstream or other) will do anything to enrich a story’s appeal to help ratings or sell papers.

Later, after having a nightmare about Renfield, Dees awakes and finds the words STAY AWAY written in blood on the window of his motel room – Renfield knows he’s on his tail.

Dees then flies to New York and gets the nasty pictures of the second victim, Buck Kendell, in the morgue. Reporting back to Morrison, Dees tells Morrison that he’s calling him “The Night Flier”. Morrison, now overly excited about the news says, “the fatties in the supermarket are going to go nuts. God, I hope he kills more people!” Morrison wants to rush the story to print.

Yet Dees knows this story is just getting started and it’s going to get bigger, stranger, and he isn’t in a rush to get it back to Morrison until he has more.
Morrison, upset that he’s not getting his way, then returns to Blair and puts her back on the story in hopes of getting a story out sooner.

Dees continuing his investigation goes to Maryland where he finds out that Renfield was staying with his last victims and that they were acting strange prior to their deaths, much like Clair Bowie had been, even after being notified by the FAA about Renfield.

Going to the victims home, Dees finds it in total disarray and covered in blood. But when he returns outside, he is greeted by a dog that tries to kill him – one can only assume that this is Renfield; it’s never fully explained in the movie and left up to interpretation.

Dees and Blair finally cross paths at a motel and decide to work together to track down where Renfield is going to be flying into next. After figuring out where he’s going to be landing, Dees locks Blair in a closet, so he can get the full story on The Night Flyer himself.

Tracking Renfield to the next airport, Dees finds the black Sesna plane; the inside is covered in blood and the back is lined with soil. Once inside the airport, Dees finds it littered with dead bodies; blood is everywhere and Renfield is near.

After finding one of the victims with a crucifix stuffed into his mouth, Dees has a meltdown and runs away only to slip in a pool of blood; he heads to the bathroom to puke.

While standing at the sink washing his hands, Dees hears footsteps behind him, but he cannot see anyone in the mirror’s reflection

It is here that the movie’s suspense is ramped up exponentially and with a cleaver use of the camera and special effects we get one of the creepiest scenes in the movie.

Renfield is behind Dees and beings to piss blood into the urinal – but the cool thing is that we don’t yet see Renfield, only the stream of bloody piss against the white porcelain of the urinal. It is a very cool scene that is well executed.

Then, as the camera moves, we start to see the mirrors being smashed – there is no reflection of Renfield in them. And before Dees realizes it, Renfield is standing directly behind him, silhouetted in the shadows, his face hidden. e demands Dees to give him his camera and film and forget about the story, or he’ll kill him.

Dees, with little options left, does as Renfield asks.

As Renfield is leaving, Dees demands to see his face and is sorry he asked when Renfield obliges to his request.

He is a hideous creature. KNB’s Effects are topnotch here and the first time you see Renfield’s face you’re truly as shocked as Dees is in the film.

Renfield’s victims then “return” to life as vampires and Dees begins to fight them off with an ax, chopping them up into bits.

The police enter the airport and find Dees covered in blood holding the ax. Now all of Renfield’s victims on the floor again, dead. Thinking Dees committed the murders they shoot him, just as Blair enters to see the aftermath.

She then takes over the story – writing the Dees was The Night Flier all along. But Blair knows the truth, that Dwight Renfield (a vampire) really killed all those people, but she takes Dees’ advice from the beginning: Don’t publish what you believe. Don’t believe what you publish.

The movie was made on an estimated budget of 1,000,000.00. Mark Pavia had just 31 days to shoot the movie and had it finished in 30 days. Every penny was put on screen and used to the fullest to put this movie together and you can see that in the final product.

Not only is this one of the most faithful King short story adaptations to date, it is also littered with references to some of King’s other works throughout the film – you’ll have to look for them, I won’t spoil that part for you. To find some of them you’ll have to both listen carefully and pay close attention to details in the background. I’m telling you it is a treasure-trove of Easter eggs litter throughout the film to the larger King mythos.

Mark Pavia wanted Stephen King to do a cameo in the film, but because of a book tour he was unable to play the part of the coroner. This is a shame, since The Night Flier is one of the best adaptations to his work, it would have really been nice to see him in this movie.

The atmosphere is heavy and claustrophobic at times, making you hold your breath and grow tense in the right scenes, especially the ending when Renfield is behind Dees.
But what the movie does best, even better than the horror aspect, is that it works as a great mystery. As you go along for this ride, you want to know more about The Night Flier/Renfield. You want to know why he’s killing people, how he’s doing it, and how is Dees going to solve the mystery, even though he’s an unlikeable character you’ll find yourself rooting for him.

As I’ve said above, KNBs effects are great in the movie; thought they are used sparingly, but when they are on screen there work is proudly displayed.

If there is one place where the film lacks, it’s in the budget. There are a few more things in the story that could have been fleshed out better. Like the dog that chases after Dees or why Renfield was caring dirt in his plane. Pavia was shooting with limited funds within a tight timeframe. He had to do set-ups quickly and efficiently to get the movie done. The small imperfections and plot holes are minor and the viewer can make their own conclusion about the dog and the dirt, if they want to.

Though The Night Flier has no connection to Salem’s Lot, (though King himself said that Renfield is the same vampire in his story Popsy) it feels very akin to that story – especially in the third act of the film, when Renfield’s victims come back to life as vampires. They even look similar to the vampires in Toby Hooper’s Salem’s Lot. It’s really cool and I can’t help but wonder if that was done on purpose since they had tied other King works in with this movie?

But Renfield isn’t the only character in The Night Flier that makes an appearance in one of Kings other stories, Richard Dees does as well in The Dead Zone.

If you haven’t seen this forgotten gem I highly recommend seeking it out. As of this writing it has not been released on Blu-Ray and the DVDs are long out of print – hopefully someone like Scream Factory or Arrow can pick this movie up and give it a rightful restoration collector’s edition and save if from obscurity.

The Night Flier deserves to fly again…

9 out of 10 stars.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do6BqbQRIv8&w=560&h=315]